Residents across the Bangor area are organizing to stop a Bangor hospital from demolishing four buildings on Broadway that are more than a century old.
Four of the eight buildings slated for demolition by St. Joseph Hospital have already been knocked down. All of the buildings are close to the hospital’s main campus at 360 Broadway.
The locations wouldn’t be habitable with repairs, and the safest action is to remove them, St. Joseph President Mary Prybylo said Monday. She said that extensive engineering reviews and evaluations had found as much, and that there were significant risks to the structures.
She did not reveal any future building plans for the locations by St. Joseph or its parent company, Massachusetts-based Covenant Health, though she said the hospital hopes to place community vegetable gardens on the vacant lots in the springtime.
But residents who have started contacting St. Joseph leadership and Bangor city councilors about the demolition fear that the city is losing some of its history with the demolition of each old structure.
All but one of the properties were built in 1900, according to city data, with the other, at 318 Broadway, built in 1910. The properties are old, but the city’s historic preservation requirements did not apply to them, said Jeff Wallace, Bangor’s director of code enforcement.
Wallace said he signed the demolition permits for the four properties that have already been demolished — at 110 (which contained two duplexes), 118 and 122 Congress St. — on Dec. 22. The nearby properties at 310, 318, 322 and 326 Broadway are slated for demolition once water and sewer connections are removed, Wallace said.
The structures’ demolition represents a heartbreaking erasure of history, said Anne Dailey, a 41-year-old teacher and administrator of Saving Bangor’s Old Houses, a Facebook group that has organized to oppose demolitions of historic buildings in Bangor.
“Bangor has homes built of old-growth pine that doesn’t exist anymore, with slate from Monson with stones from local quarries,” said Dailey, who lives in Hampden. “When those materials go into the dumpster, that’s layers of loss.”
It also takes a potential home away from someone else, she said. Bangor has a significant homelessness and affordable housing problem that has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The properties should be restored instead of demolished, Dailey said. And if that is not possible, she believes parts of the historic homes should be salvaged rather than thrown away.
Advocates have focused their efforts on one site in particular: a brick property at 326 Broadway that they call the “carriage house” because it appears to look like a building where someone once placed their horse-drawn carriage.
“That’s the one we’ve homed in on because it is particularly compelling,” Dailey said. “It’s obviously built really well.”
They realize that their efforts may not be enough to save all the properties, Dailey said. But they hope they can get into a dialogue with St. Joseph Hospital about at least saving that one.
The hospital did not discuss such a dialogue or reconsideration in a statement it released Monday.
The building does not contain any interior elements original to the property or of historical significance, Prybylo said. Erosion and structural problems with the building make it “extraordinarily unsafe,” she said.
Each of the locations appears to have had a number of past uses. The unit at 118 Congress St. was once a single-family home that the hospital bought around 2005, according to Bangor Daily News archives, while 122 Congress St. was once the location of an osteoporosis center.
Businesses have operated at 112 Congress St., including a salon and spa that opened in 1995 amid objections among neighbors who believed sexual activites were occurring inside. It was closed the same day it opened because the area’s zoning didn’t allow such a business.
Dailey said she does not believe St. Joseph is being malicious with the demolitions and is not trying to bully the hospital into any decision. However, she hopes she and others can at least start a dialogue about the properties’ future.
“I’m not sure they know that people care,” Dailey said. “Maybe if they do see how many people care about these structures, they’ll pause and will be willing to think about a different path forward.”